Revisionism has no race, class, gender, even as economic justice reigns.
Last week, the Root joined the chorus with its “Every Democratic Candidates’ ‘Black Agenda’ Ranked” study. They enlisted “policy experts, legal scholars, and political pundits, all of whom were black,” none of whom were revealed, to create a policy framework and grade the candidates accordingly using a one-to-ten scale. The criteria included concrete categories such as economics, criminal justice, education, and the candidate’s history. It also used more abstract metrics like feasibility, intentionality, and impact. Even a cursory look at this study reveals major flaws and a puzzling logic at work.
Unbelievably (or perhaps believably if you regularly watch MSNBC), Bernie Sanders was ranked fifth behind Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, and Joe Biden. First place went to none other than Elizabeth Warren.
Sanders’s low ranking mostly rests on the premise that his policies on racial justice are performative and subsumed under his economic agenda. This critique has been incessantly repeated by pundits who seem to put more weight on how often black people are mentioned in a policy, rather than what the actual impact would be for the overwhelming majority of black people who live in economic insecurity.
On education, Sanders was given a four out of ten despite his plan to make public college tuition-free and give $1.3 billion to HBCUs and minority-serving institutions. The outrageous cost of higher education has proven to be a core concern of black Americans trying to secure a decent future for their children. Bernie organizers in Nevada often cited this issue as one that partly explained his overwhelming support from Latinos.
The study also erroneously claims that Sanders’s platform “has very little, if any information on reducing disparities in K-12 education.” Looking at his Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education reveals a very different story. It’s hard to argue that policies such as tripling Title I funding, dedicating a fund for expanding teacher-training programs at HBCUs, and banning for-profit charters would not reduce racial disparities in education.
Sanders earned a five on criminal justice because he “offers no solutions.” However, Sanders promotes specific common-sense policies that have been embraced by the recent wave of progressive district attorneys. Anyone who cares to do a quick search will find that he campaigns about reforms like ending cash bail, ending mandatory minimums, and legalizing marijuana.
Perhaps the most outrageous point against Sanders comes in the section on his history. They acknowledge that he marched with Martin Luther King Jr and supported Jesse Jackson’s presidential runs, but lament the fact that he “also wanted to primary the first black president.” Apparently, daring to even think of challenging a black politician puts your commitment to racial justice in question.